Saturday, April 23, 2016

A to Z April Challenge: T is for Teachers

Genealogists and family historians get a lot of satisfaction from chasing their ancestors’ stories. Finding a diary, a message on a postcard, or a photo with a name attached is like the sun coming out after a storm. One day we will be somebody’s ancestor. We need to leave our descendants a little bit of sunshine too. So here is my story told alphabetically, not chronologically: Growing Up in Cradock.

is for teachers.

I was lucky to have had twelve years of dedicated, thoughtful, and creative teachers throughout public school. Only one stands out as a dud – my eighth grade English teacher. There was nothing particularly wrong with her instruction or her fairness in grading. It’s just that she embarrassed me once. I was always a good student; I did my work and came to class prepared. I raised my hand when I knew the answer. One day, my hand went up and she called on me. “What? I can’t hear you,” she barked. “Speak up.” I answered again. “I still can’t hear you. You must speak up.” Again I answered. With that, she glared at me and threatened, “You have one more chance. If I can’t hear you, I’m going to make you stand on a chair in the back of the room and yell.” Whew – like being 13 wasn’t hard enough. I guess she was satisfied finally because I was not sent to the chair.

But that was the day I became a wallflower and never volunteered an answer for the rest of my high school career.

Before anyone thinks I’m wallowing in self-pity (waah poor me), let me move on to those GOOD English teachers who were the reason I majored in English in college.

Cora Mae Fitzgerald
(scanned from my yearbook)
Miss Cora Mae Fitzgerald was my 10th grade English teacher. She was the first teacher who made reading really FUN for me. She assigned us to various groups to read a particular book and then do a creative presentation of it. My group read Ethan Frome. One of the boys was “techie” before there was any technology like we have today; his area of expertise was audio electronics and he had some impressive equipment. Our group spent many afternoons and weekends at his house recording a scene from the book involving a sled crashing into a tree in a suicide-pact. Ours was a dynamite presentation in its day. Other groups had exciting projects too for books like The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Catcher in the Rye. Each one made me want to read.

Sharon Comer
photo taken on our field trip to Williamsburg







In my junior year, Mrs. Sharon Comer became my role model of what a teacher should be. She seemed like the perfect package: she was enthusiastic about teaching both grammar and literature, her personality made for a comfortable learning atmosphere, and besides that, she dressed cute. She did the expected things to “bring literature to life” with interesting discussion. She even arranged a field trip to Williamsburg when we were studying early American writers, but mostly it felt like a fun day away from school. As the 11th grade English teacher, her most important responsibility was teaching us how to do research and write a research paper, complete with note cards and bibliography cards and footnotes. I thank her every day for that instruction because when I was in college, I did a lot of researching and writing to earn that English degree.

Mrs. Comer did more than she was required. Our class wanted to make a movie based on the play “I Remember Mama” (at least I THINK that was the play). Mrs. Comer invited us to her home one Saturday to make plans for how we would pull off this project since it was going to be over and above the regular English 11 subject matter that we were expected to do. She even fixed lunch for everyone. Many hours were devoted outside of class to rehearsals, gathering costumes, making sets, and so forth. For some reason, the movie never got made. I can’t remember what happened, but I have not forgotten how Mrs. Comer encouraged us.

I am no toady who would try to thwart the throngs in their tenacious trek through the terrain called the A to Z April Challenge.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved

28 comments:

  1. Hurray for awesome teachers! Wow, Mrs. Comer really did go above and beyond by inviting you all to her home that day. And even providing lunch too. How sweet of her!

    My father-in-law was a teacher and two of our sons are going into the education field. In fact, one of our sons will be doing his student teaching next year. :)

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    1. Good for the Last boys. We need more good male role models and male teachers.

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  2. What an impact those great teachers made on you. How great to have been so inspired by them.

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  3. It is neat when a teacher goes up and beyond like Mrs. Comer. That is sad though about your 8th grade teacher. I wonder if she ever regretted her actions on how she treated you that day.

    betty

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    1. She probably never thought a thing of it.

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  4. I had some terrible teachers at school. In fact I hated school and I hated learning. So, later in life I became a teacher and I loved to encourage the students in my care to enjoy learning. It is so important for teachers to take responsibility in making every child's school life a pleasant and enjoyable one. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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    1. I loved school even when a teacher was boring or the subject was too hard. I knew school was important; I didn't expect it to be fun.

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  5. What a dreadful experience to go through with that awful English teacher. I can quite see why you became a wallflower. But thank goodness that you also discovered teachers who provided encouragement and inspiration that has lasted a lifetime.

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    1. I had many others I started to write about but the blog got too long, so I limited myself to just English teachers since that is what I became.

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  6. Teaches are wonderful. Two of my Aunts my dad sister were lower grade teachers.
    As for my teachers I had average teachers. I wouldn't call any of them awful or great.
    But one thing I can say when our school dist run a levy. I always vote in favor of it.
    Coffee is on

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    1. I support public education even when I don't agree with everything (like SOLs). Thanks for the visit.

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  7. It just takes one teacher to put you off, eh?
    I always told my kids if they didn't understand something to ask the teacher, cuz then they may not get the next thing. My youngest daughter one day put up her hand and told the teacher she didn't understand something and the teacher yelled at her telling her it was impossible!! I changed her school.
    My teachers were mostly average except our grade 9 english teacher who helped and inspired me. We are still in touch. It was great you found some great teachers too.

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    1. Most of my teachers wanted us to speak up when we didn't understand.

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  8. Teachers are so important! I had a few duds but nothing like your experience, thank heavens...what poor performance. You had a few shining stars that counter-balanced her negativity.

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    1. One dud in over 30 teachers -- not bad, I'd say.

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  9. I had a few duds and a few awesome teachers. My English teacher in 12th grade was one of my favorites. She made Chaucer fun.

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    1. Chaucer is ALWAYS fun. I can still recite the Prologue in Middle English. Thanks for the visit.

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  10. I have a couple of cranky teacher memories too. More than one involved clacking chalky erasers after school. Another had something to do with me standing in the hallway (with a staple through one finger), waiting for the teacher to stop chatting with another teacher. She barked at me for intruding on their conversation. Then the OTHER teacher noticed my predicament.

    Thank God for all the REALLY GOOD teachers!


    Thanks for visiting Heart of a Ready Writer - and happy A to Z.

    Here's another site you might like: Kicking MS to the Curb

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    1. I'm the type that would have liked beating the erasers. I'd wash the boards too. I clinched my fingers just thinking about a staple in your finger. Ouch!

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  11. I have moved several times in several different states over the years and have no idea where many of my childhood teachers now live. Some that I've tried to find I have learned are deceased. I wish I had told them how much they meant to me and how much they influenced my life.

    I too worked hard to do what I was suppose to do and always turned my work in on time, but I did have a teacher or two who made life a little rough. One that stands out is a math teacher who told me in front of the class that I seemed to have a talent for doing my math wrong. It was a fact, but not something I needed the entire class to know.

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    1. I've known teachers to read out the grade as they returned papers. That's fine and dandy if you got an A.

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  12. We definitely remember good teachers unfortunately the bad ones tend to stick in our minds too albeit for different reasons. Great theme for the A-Z.
    Wendy’s Waffle

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    1. Always fun to meet another Wendy. Thanks for the visit.

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  13. My grandmother was a 1 room schoolhouse teacher in Iowa in the 30's. I blame her for my desire to have all these children in my home each day ;)
    Wish she were around to thank. God Bless those good ones!
    Stephanie Finnell
    @randallbychance from
    Katy Trail Creations
    Stephanies Stuff

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    1. Are you a homeschooler? I don't think my girls and I could have survived that arrangement. My friend and her kids thrived though.

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  14. I had one great teacher that stands out in my mind - Mrs. Foster. It's been so long now that I don't remember too many specifics but she was there for me when I really needed it. I stayed in touch with her for several years and even invited her to my wedding! I sometimes wonder what happened to her.

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    1. Many of my teachers are long gone now. The younger ones should still be kicking around. I wonder is Mrs. Comer is on FB.

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